Expert picks: 2012 U.S. Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 12, 2012, 8:00 pm

This week the best players in the world head to the Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, site of this year's second major. Rory McIlroy is back to defend the title he won in a romp last year at Congressional, but an elite field will challenge for the title. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin;'s Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He won at Memorial, has a pair of wins this season and is a three-time U.S. Open champion. Good enough for me.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Furyk is second on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, which will be critical for success at Olympic. He won the U.S. Open in 2003.

Group 3: Colt Knost: The second alternate out of Columbus won the 2007 U.S. Amateur at this venue. He's ninth on Tour in driving accuracy.

Group 4: Roberto Castro: The Georgia Tech product is 18th in greens in regulation percentage and 49th in driving accuracy. It's a good combination in the group of mostly dreamers.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Westwood enters the week seeking his first major, but is playing very well. The third-ranked player in the world has won twice in 2012, including last week, and also finished T-3 at the Masters. On top of all that, he finished T-7 in the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic. I think Westwood wins his first major this week.

Group 2: Zach Johnson: If the conditions are tough, Zach Johnson is a name I always think of. The 2007 Masters champion won earlier this year at Colonial and has runner-up finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town. I think he'll be able to maneuver his way around Olympic very well and at the very least record his best U.S. Open finish this week.

Group 3: Branden Grace: Grace is arguable the most underrated performer of 20212 so far as he has won three times on the European Tour, with two wins in South Africa and one in China. He earned his place in the field on Monday by being ranked in the top 60 in the world and is making his first major start in the U.S. An upset win this week would make Grace the story of the year.

Group 4: Brian Harman: Harman played in the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur at Olympic and made it to the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champion. That year, he shot 67-66 in stroke play to win medalist honors by eight shots. Considering he shot 64 at Pebble Beach and 61 at PGA National earlier this year, he could surprise many people this week.week.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Tiger Woods: The question remains, which guy will show up this week? The guy who missed the cut at Quail Hollow or won Bay Hill by a five spot? The guy who finished T-40 at the Masters and Players or rolled to victory at the Memorial? My gut says the latter.

Group 2: Zach Johnson: The U.S. Open has never been kind to Johnson; his best finish in eight starts is a T-30 last year, but in his last five overall starts he has two second-place finishes and a win. Olympic may be the best fit of all the Open venues for this fairways-and-greens specialist.

Group 3: Davis Love III: This seems like a sentimental pick, but the U.S. Ryder Cup captain is fresh off his best finish of the year (a T-3 in Memphis) and with 22 starts at the national championship, no one has more experience in this week's field.

Group 4: Joe Durant: Always one of the Tour's best ball-strikers, the Olympic Club will fit his game better than most Open venues that reward power over shot-making. He also has some experience on the Lake Course, having finished T-32 at the 1998 U.S. Open.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He's back.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Seven top-25 finishes in his last eight starts; he's in form and certainly has a shot at adding another U.S. Open title to the one he picked up in 2003.

Group 3: Branden Grace: Three wins this year on the European Tour have me not worried a bit that he can contend in his first U.S. Open.

Group 4: Michael Allen: He's gained a lot of confidence with age and performance on the Champions Tour, where he's picked up two wins in 2012.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Luke Donald: Keys to contending at any major: keep the ball in play, eliminate mistakes and be deadly from 100 yards and in. That's pretty much an analysis of Donald's game.

Group 2: Jonathan Byrd: Looking for a hot hand? Byrd has finished 12th or better in each of his last four events. Ironically, this Ben Hogan fan could be this week's Jack Fleck.

Group 3: Davis Love III: Don't scoff. The current United States Ryder Cup captain is peaking at the right time, reaching the field through sectionals before a T-3 finish in Memphis.

Group 4: Mikko Ilonen: Little-known Euro Tour player is fresh off a T-3 in Sweden at last week's Nordea Masters.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Woods seems to really like the creative test Olympic offers, and more importantly, he has the variety of shots again to win here.

Group 2: Sergio Garcia: Olympic Club rewards pure ball strikers, and it will reward Garcia if his putter is working.

Group 3: Steve Marino: Going with Frank Nobilo's feeling that there is some Jack Fleck in Marino.

Group 4: Patrick Cantlay: This is called rooting for the story. It would be historic with an amateur winning the U.S. Open.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: In a field loaded with talent, I'll take the most consistent performer of the elite. His time is now.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Not only is his record impressive in the U.S. Open, but his splits across the board and recent results support this endorsement.

Group 3: Davis Love III: I rode him last week in Memphis, so I'm taking another spin on the bandwagon. What matters more isn't that he's playing extremely well again, but that he's healthy and perhaps fresher than most of his opposition as a result of his rest (e.g. Dustin Johnson at the St. Jude).

Group 4: Alex Cejka: In a lot full of fliers, he's one of the safest options. Shared eighth place at the U.S. Open down the road at Pebble Beach two years ago. Also cashed in his last four starts entering this week.

**Join Fantasy Expert Rob Bolton for a live golf chat Wednesday at 12:00p ET at**

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.